Each October for nearly a decade, Ida Ferraro, 62, would host breast cancer awareness fundraisers at a gym where she worked as a Zumba instructor. Although the mother of four was an ardent advocate of breast cancer screening, she herself never had a mammogram.
But all that changed in early 2018 after her 37-year-old niece was diagnosed with the disease. “My sister, my niece’s mother, said I should get myself checked and get a mammogram,” Ida recalled.
That October, tests revealed a stage l HER2-positive carcinoma of the right breast, a fast-growing cancer. “It was my worst nightmare,” said Ida, who had skipped the routine screening up to that point fearing an abnormal finding.
The diagnosis struck fear in her heart, but she channeled her anxiety into “doing what I had to do” and following her doctor’s orders.
On December 17 of that year, Ida underwent a lumpectomy followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy that left her bald and with thinning eyebrows. Radiation treatments spanned another 12 weeks.
Ida found strength in the support of her family and her Zumba students. “My students encouraged me,” she said. “Some of them had breast cancer, and I didn’t know it.”
When she felt up to it, Ida continued to dance and teach Zumba, which was a welcome distraction. “It made me feel good and it took my mind off of things,” she said.
Cancer-free for three years, Ida is grateful that she scheduled her mammogram when she did and encourages others to prioritize their breast health.
“Make sure you go for your check-ups and do not miss that,” she said. “If I had not gone (for a mammogram), I would not have known and it (cancer) would have spread to other parts of my body. God was with me.”